Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Bengals Pick
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9 SU, 8-7 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Bengals (8-6-1 SU, 8-6-1 ATS)
When: Sunday, December 30th, 2018 – 4:25 PM ET
Where: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
Point Spread: CIN +14.5 / PIT -14.5
Power Rankings: Bengals 28, Steelers 4
Takeaways From Week 16
The Bengals resumed their losing ways on Sunday with a 26-18 loss on the road at the most-improved team in the NFL in 2018, the Cleveland Browns. Despite the defeat, the Bengals fostered their third consecutive cover thanks to taking advantage of lofty point spreads in Week 14 (at Los Angeles Chargers +17) and Week 16 (at Cleveland +10).
The Steelers also attained a second consecutive cover when on Sunday when they fell to the New Orleans Saints by a score of 31-28, coming in under a 6.5-point line. Pittsburgh’s post-season aspirations remain imperiled after going 1-4 SU in their previous five games. The one win, however, was against the defending AFC Champions, the New England Patriots. The Steelers will need help to win the AFC North with a win and Baltimore loss against Cleveland. This is the only way the Steel City can assure themselves a playoff berth with Los Angeles claiming at least a wildcard spot with the winner of Indianapolis-Tennessee’s clash earning the second placement.
How the Public is Betting the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh Game
Out of the chute, 69% of the general public love the Bengals with what appears to be an inflated point spread to the consensus eye. Despite this, we have yet to see any line movements take shape but we must highlight that the 14.5 spot that the Steelers are working with is another notorious favorite-friendly number. Mirroring what we see in a -7.5 market where the market is looking to draw action on the underdog through the mirage of a win by a loss of a touchdown or less, this line hones a similar method only with the premise of greening-up if Cincy loses by two touchdowns. So far, it seems that the public has bitten and this raises concern for the Bengals in this spot.
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The Steelers are riding a seven-game winning streak over the Bengals heading into this pivotal AFC North fixture. The two teams last met in October in Cincinnati with the Steelers winning outright as a 1.5-point underdog when they defeated the Bengals 28-21.
Nothing has changed for the Bengals here as they will once again be without franchise quarterback Andy Dalton and superstar wide receiver AJ Green who have been placed on IR. Pittsburgh “folk hero” running back James Conner is listed as day-to-day with a nagging ankle injury that has caused him to sit the last three games. Conner will be a huge bonus to have available as he filled in impeccably for star running back LeVeon Bell who held out since the beginning of the 2018 season.
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Despite producing limited numbers in total offense by collecting 318.4 yards per game (25th in the NFL), the Cincinnati Bengals remain 15th in the league in scoring with 23.7 points per game. Cincinnati if it elects to play their last contest with a whole-hearted effort will have trouble getting their 1,000-yard rusher Joe Mixon going as they are tasked with going up against the sixth-ranked rushing defense in the NFL as Pittsburgh only gives up 94.2 yards per game on the ground. If Mixon is out of the mix, the game will fall on the shoulders of reserve signal caller Jeff Driskel who has stayed under 200 yards through the air in four of his five starts this season. Against a high-powered Pittsburgh offense, the prospects seem rather grim for the Bengals heading into this fixture.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
Catalytic is the appropriate word to describe Pittsburgh’s offense as they sit fourth in the league both in scoring (27.5 points per game) and total offense (407.5 yards per game). In particular, the Steelers are a pass specialist anchored by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. So far, “Big Ben” has spearheaded a Pittsburgh offense that generates 315.3 yards through the air per game. They have the best match-up possible to take advantage against a Cincinnati defense that sits dead-last in total defense (418.3 yards per game) and 31st in the NFL in scoring (29.3 points per game).
Over the last 27 meetings, the Bengals are 7-19-1 ATS against the Steelers overall. Furthermore, Cincinnati is 1-4 ATS in the previous five contests in Pittsburgh. For those that like total markets, the Under is 7-2 ATS in the last nine contests in the Steel City.
Weather reports reveal that Sunday will be frigid with temperatures hovering around the freezing point. To complement this wintry climate, the forecast calls for cloudy skies, but there is only a 26% chance of precipitation.
Keith’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Pittsburgh -14.5
For Cincinnati, they want to get off this bad ride and end what has to be considered as a nightmare season. Week 17 often bodes a lot of opportunities for reserves and second-teamers to get a bunch of playing time if they are not in the fold for a playoff berth. Cincinnati fits that model here. Chances are the Bengals will only show up in body and not in spirit which makes them a dangerous team to back here in this spot against a Pittsburgh team that needs the win. The games that will decide the fate of the AFC North will be played concurrently with the aforementioned Ravens/Browns game kicking-off at the same time as this contest. Pittsburgh cannot afford to play anything less than a four-quarter game, so it is expected this team will not take their foot off the gas here which creates the possibility of the Steelers winning this one by huge margins.